How to audit Google Search ADS
Published at Sep 6, 2023
How to audit Google Ads Search Campaigns?
Auditing a Google Search campaign starts by analyzing the account structure, settings, targeting, ad copy, keywords, and performance metrics. Here are the elements to audit in a Google Search campaign:
- Account Structure: Check if the campaigns and ad groups are structured in a way that aligns with the business’s goals and target audience.
- Settings: Evaluate the campaign settings, including the location, language, bidding strategy, and ad rotation settings.
- Targeting: Review the targeting options used in the campaign, including keywords, audiences, demographics, and devices.
- Ad Copy: Evaluate the ad copy used in the campaign. Check if the ad copy is relevant, compelling, and includes a clear call-to-action.
- Keywords: Review the keywords used in the campaign. Check if the keywords are relevant, have sufficient search volume, and are driving conversions.
- Performance Metrics: Analyze the campaign’s performance metrics, including click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, cost-per-click (CPC), and cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Compare the metrics with industry benchmarks, historical performance, auction insights, and pinpoint areas of improvement.
For a comprehensive Google Ads Search campaigns audit you will have to visit the Notion Google Ads Audit template that contains the following list of elements that need to be audited:
- bidding strategy
- keyword types
- search terms
- time frame
- Value rules
- Ad Rotation
- Campaign url options
- IP exclusions
- Audience Segments
- Household Income
- Negative keywords
- Negative keyword lists
- Locations [of the ad shown]
- Ad Schedule
- Bid Adjustments
- Performance metrics
- The ads themselves
Now we are going to analyze what each element means and how it benefits Google Search Ads audits.
In brief, Budgets in Google Ads are broken down to
- Average daily budgets
- Daily spending limits
- Monthly spending limits
By default, daily spend will vary depending on factors such as smart bidding, competition, seasonality, budgets, etc. Example below
Extreme volatility in daily spent can be a sign of poor ppc management and/or unrealistic campaign targets.
Eg a sign of poor ppc management is limited by budget Campaigns that have a status limited by budget will not serve to enough people and thus you will be getting reduced conversions.
This will have to be investigated further and the results will need to be communicated with the business owner.
more info on Google Ads budgets
In brief, targeting in Google Ads can be broken down to
Google’s audience segments
- Detailed demographics
- Affinity segments
- In-market segments
- Life events
Your data segments
- Website remarketing
- App remarketing
- YouTube remarketing
- Customer Match
- Similar segments
- Search term-based
- Combined segments
- Optimized targeting
- Audience expansion
A search campaign can use a keyword based targeting layered with any of the options mentioned above. Or it can use a simple keyword based targeting. This depends on the strategy created by the .
Generally speaking, there are 3 types of keyword types
- broad match
- phrase match
- exact match
All keyword types have a role to play in a PPC strategy.
Exact match types play the most important role since such keywords are connected to BOTF campaigns and in extent, conversions. Exact match keyword types require little to no management since the ad is served only when that keyword is typed in Google Search. Practically this means that there is little to no need for negative keyword lists and daily search terms observations. When you audit an account, you should investigate if BOTF campaigns have enough budget in order to not only gather impressions but also gather clicks compared to other competitors.
Phrase match campaigns are the middle ground between exact match and broad match. They offer some control but also the flexibility to expand to a colder audience. They also provide insights with search terms. When you audit phrase match campaigns you should investigate if the campaigns have enough budget, if the there are negative keyword lists connected to the campaign, and if there is a conflict with phrase keywords and the negative keyword lists connected to the campaign.
Broad match campaigns are the exact opposite to exact match campaigns. They will trigger each and every variation of the keyword targeted. Such campaigns require ppc spealists to be vigilant with search terms and add irrelevant keywords and search terms into the negative lists connected to the campaignppc specialist.
That said, broad match keyword targeting without smart bidding and negative keyword lists should be avoided since it will eat up the budget extremely fast and offer little to no conversions in that time period.
Reason being that smart bidding uses signals from both the searcher and the Landing page among other elements such as:
- Ad creative
- Actual query
- Search partner
This will help the algorithm serve your ads to the most relevant search that matched the intent and the content found on the landing pages.
More info about smart bidding
Another sign of unrealistic campaign targets are extreme ROAS targets. (tROAS) There are 2 ways to understand if a tROAS is unrealistic. The first is via the ROAS history of the campaign and the second is via the campaign budget simulator. You can find the ROAS hisitory of a campaign with multiple ways. The first is changing the colored blocks in the overview of the campaign after you select it. Click on every colored block you like and change the metric to conv. value / cost. This is the ROAS of that campaign. I f the ROAS of that campaign is lower from the tCPA found inside the settings (of that campaign) then the target is not realistic since the Google Ads doesn’t have enough data to work with.
The second is by using the Smart bidding simulator which you can find by following the instructions below
- In your Google Ads account click the Campaigns icon.
- Click the Campaigns drop down in the section menu.
- Click the simulator icon . This icon is located in the “Budget” column.
More info on Smart Bidding Simulator
In brief, search terms provide insight into the searches that trigger ads and how those searches are performing. They also help you discover new ideas for creative and landing page content to align with what your customers are looking for.
Search terms vs keywords
A search term is a word or set of words a person enters when searching on Google. A keyword is a word or set of words that Google Ads advertisers use to target the right audience.
Search terms categories
Search terms fall into the following categories
When auditing Google Search Ads campaigns, the search terms report should show you search terms that have a positive impact in the performance of your campaigns. For BOTF campaigns you should be seeing transactional and commercial terms instead of informational. If that is not the case, then the campaigns have a high chance of being poorly managed.
When we speak of time frames, we refer to the volume of data we are going to audit eg 90 days worth of data. It is probably best to have as much data as possible especially if seasonality plays an important role in the profitability of the account and in extent how data are skewed in specific time periods. eg it would be unwise to compare Q1 data to Q4 data since the latter contains black friday and xmas sales revenue.
When auditing an account it is best to compare a full year’s worth of data if possible.
Goals can be any of the 2 following things: the goals of the business owner or the goals of the campaign. When it comes to Google Ads auditing, you will be interested for the latter and you will have to make sure that each and every campaign has a set goal in order to optimize accordingly.
Eg are the campaign using the account goal setting or a campaign specific goal setting.
Rule of thumb is that sales campaigns should use account goals as long as the account goals are properly set up.
More info on Conversion Goals
Objectives refer to marketing objectives and should always be found inside a campaign. The correct objective will enable the features and settings required in order to achieve your goal.
When it comes to Google Search ads there are 3 objectives
- Website traffic
When you audit a campaign you should find the appropriate marketing objective inside all campaigns. if not then you will have to make note of such descrepancy.
More info on Marketing objectives
In Google Search Ads you have additional choices when it comes to serving you ads. One being Search partners network and the other being the Display Network. Both networks offer extensive reach but come with a set of caveats such as competition and inventory quality. that said, BOTF campaigns should serve only in the Search network and not in Search partners nor the Display network. Reason being that you need to control your impressions, and your spend.
When you audit an account, should make note if BOTF campaings are serving in all networks.
Language targeting can be a bit tricky when it comes to Google search. By default, Google Search Ads uses a variety of signals to understand which language the user knows, and attempts to serve the best ad available in a language the user understands. These signals could include query language, user settings, and other language signals as derived by Google AI.
Depending on your products and offerings it can be wise to target all languages. It really depends on the situation and the objectives. If the client has limited budget it is probably wise to target only one language, that of the landing page.
More info on language targeting
Value rules lets you better express the value of conversions as they relate to your business, and easily adjust values for conversions based on geographic location, device and audiences at auction time bidding in real time.
Value Rules are nice to have but they want make or break an account. It can help in increasing profitability of an account but in order for such a thing to happen, you will have to have stellar tracking, and a solid understanding of the business you are promoting.
That said, when auditing an account you will have to check the value rules inside the campaign and make note if there aren’t any.
More info on Value Rules
The “Ad rotation” setting allows you to specify how often you’d like the ads in your ad group to be served relative to one another. If you have multiple ads within an ad group, your ads will rotate because no more than one ad from your account can show at a time. It also, optimizes your ads for clicks in each individual auction using signals (such as keywords, search terms, devices, locations, and more), and prioritizes ads that are expected to perform better than other ads within an ad group.
That said, the correct option should be the recommended one that is the following Optimize: Prefer best performing ads
This allows advertisers to show ads that are expected to get more clicks or conversions.
More info on Google Search Ads ad rotation
Campaign URL options
In brief a URL parameter is a way to pass information about a click through its URL. By default, auto-tagging is enabled but in some cases it might not. It is recommended that this option turned on. You also have the option of a tracking template, which does offer some additional information about keywords, networks, devices, etc.
When it comes to auditing, you should most definetly see the auto-tagging option enabled. If not, then you should make note of it.
More info Campaign URL options
In brief, IP exclussions allows you to take your ads off certain neighborhoods of the Internet map, by excluding computer or network IP addresses.
That said, IP exclussions are a powerful tool that can break your account if you are not careful about what IP populate that list.
When it comes to auditing, IP exclussions will have to taken into consideration and re-evaluated if there is a significant drop in performance.
More info on IP exclussions
In brief with demographic targeting you can reach a specific set of potential customers who are likely to be within a particular age range, gender, parental status, or household income. You can include of exclude demographic target if the you so choose.
When it comes to auditing, you will have to check if both the included and excluded demographic targets make sense for the product and/or service.
More info about Demographic Targeting
Audience segments is a section in the Audience manager where you can create and manage your data segments. With audience segments you can
bid on keywords you not normaly bid for
optimize bids for existing keywords
When it comes to auditing, you will have to check if audience segments are utilized effectively. If not, you will have to make note of it.
More info on Audience segments for Google Search Ads
Negative keywords allows you to control what keywords or search terms your ad should not serve. They are an integral part of the any PPC strategy because it not only saves money but also increases your Return on Investment.
As with keywords, there are 3 types of keywords
Negative keyword lists are a set of negative keywords that are present on the account level and help reduce management costs.
When it comes to auditing you will have to audit the types of negative keywords, the negative lists, negative keywords conflicts, and the most important of all, if the negative keyword lists are connected the appropriate campaigns
With Ad Scheduling you can show your ads in certain hours or days of the week. You can also adjust bids for certain hours or days of the week.
When it comes to auditing, you should audit if any ad scheduling found in the account has positive or negative effects.
More info on Ad scheduling
Devices are where the ads appear. In Search ads you have the following 3 options
Devices play a very important role in the customer’s journey. Practically this means that someone might start their journey with a mobile phone but convert to a desktop device and vice versa.
In auditing, it is essential to assess whether applying bid adjustments to particular devices would yield advantages, and also determine if certain devices play a limited role in enhancing the customer’s journey.
More info on device targeting in Google Ads
In Brief, Bid adjustments allow you to show your ads more or less frequently based on where, when, and how people search.
In Smart bidding Search Ads you can adjust bids for the following:
- Ad schedule
- Advanced bid adjustments
In Manual Bidding Search Ads you can adjust bid for the following:
- Ad scheduling
- Targeting Method
- Interaction (call adjustments)
In auditing, it is essential to assess whether bid adjustments affect the budget’s pacing and/or if they have a positive effect in the campaign’s performance.
More info on Bid Adjustments
Performance Metrics can be a confusing matter if there isn’t a clear goal. For eCommerce accounts, ROAS is the penultimate metric in which all other metrics follow. In contrast, for Lead gen accounts, Cost per conversions (cost per lead) is the metric that defines the success of a campaign.
In auditing, it is essential to assess whether the performance metrics that matter match that of the competition and/or are sustainable based on the business objectives.
More info on how to measure performance in Google Search Ads
Ads and media need to be optimized for the devices they appear in. This means that you need to have the right message, with the right media delivered to the right device and all that need to not only look good but also make sense when someone read the ad copy.
In auditing, it is essential to assess whether there is high enough Ad relevance and if the ads themselves match the searchers’ intent.
More in on Google Search ads
This section contains brief answers to the most common questions asked about Google Search Ads audits.
What is pinning strategy?
Is the act of controlling where individual headlines and descriptions appear in your ad by pinning headlines and descriptions to specific positions.
More information on Google Search Ads pins
What is search terms?
Search terms is the report found under the Keywords section.
What is BOTF and all that?
The F in the end referes to the Funnel. That said, the definition is as follows:
- BOTF = bottom of the funnel
- MOTF = middle of the funnel
- TOTF = Top of the funnel
What is search intent?
Search intent is the placing of each search under a specific category eg. Transactional
What are search signals?
Search signals are attributes or context about a search query.
What is smart bidding?
Automated bid strategies that use machine learning to optimize for conversions or conversion value
What is automated bidding?
A solution that helps advertisers automatically set bids based on performance goals.
What is tROAS?
tROAS (target ROAS) is the average conversion value you’d like to get for each dollar you spend on Google ads.
More info on tROAS
What is tCPA?
tCPA (target CPA) is the average conversions you’d like to get for each dollar you spend on Google ads.
What is better: tCPA or tROAS?
The is no clear preference but a rule of thumb:
If you have a eshop with multiple items and extreme variation of prices (conversion value) then choose tROAs, alternativley choose tCPA.
What are contextual signals?
Contextual signs helps you reach more potential customers, by showing your ads on content that matches any of the topics, placements, or keywords you target.
More info on contextual signals
What is bid adjustment?
Bid adjustments are changes to bids which allow you to show your ads more or less frequently based on where, when, and how people search
Bonus: Reading list and documentation